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Justin Bethel makes big impact on special teams

Justin Bethel has not missed a game over his year and a half in the NFL.

The defensive back out of Presbyterian has tallied 23 total tackles, 10 of which have come this season. He has yet to record an interception, sack, forced fumble or fumble recovery. He has, however, blocked two field goals this season, and Sunday Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said there are very few guys who can do what Bethel does.

“He’s a Pro Bowl player,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “If he doesn’t get in, it’s a shame. Not only as a coverage guy and a vice, but there are very very few guys who come off the edge and block field goals because no one’s doing anything wrong, you’re just beating the kick time.

“He’s got great anticipation and feel for when to leave his feet.”

A 6-foot, 200-pound player, Bethel’s role has primarily been on special teams, where he serves as a gunner on punt coverage and edge rusher during field goals. It was in the latter role where he’s made the most noticeable impact. In Week 2, he blocked a 47-yard David Akers field goal attempt, keeping the Cardinals within two points in the fourth quarter, and Sunday against Houston his block of Randy Bullock’s 40-yard field goal attempt as the second quarter expired kept the Texans’ lead at three.

The Cardinals rallied to win both games.

“The blocked field goal, 31 is the guy that we emphasized,” Texans interim head coach Wade Phillips said. “It’s the guy that we’ve got to stop because he’s the field goal blocker, and he did it.”

It likely will not be the last time for Bethel, though his reputation will precede him and cause teams to start game planning in order to stop him.

“You better,” Arians said. “He has enough on tape that if you don’t, he’s going to hurt you.”